Stephen Appiah launches Ghana-made 'Tornado' football with ex GFA boss Brew-Buttler emerging highest purchaser
December 16, 2014 | 0 Comments
The new football which was designed in honour of the ex Black Stars captain received massive endorsements at its launch in a colourful ceremony held at the residence of the British High Commissioner.
The balls are hand-made by Ghanaians with disability working for the Alive and Kicking Company based in Ghana.
The ball is manufactured with locally acquired materials which is in tandem with the government’s policy to promote made in Ghana goods.
Former GFA chairman Nana Sam Brew-Buttler beat all gathered to purchase 500 pieces of the balls launched on Monday evening.
Other invited guests including Henry Quuashie (Hencook) Larry Opare Otoo (Primeval Media), Kurt Okraku (Dreams FC) and award winning actor Chris Attoh also took turns to purchase the balls at the launch.
Nestle Milo also purchased 2000 pieces of the balls to be used for their annual juvenile championships which has Stephen Appiah as an ambassador.
Parts of the proceeds to be realized from the sales of the new balls christened ‘tornado’ – the nickname of the ex Juventus star – will go into The Stephen Appiah Foundation to finance its various social intervention projects.
The ‘Tornado’ will offer more jobs to Ghanaians
The continued patronage of the ‘tornado’ will also help create more job opportunities for Ghanaians especially the ones living with disability.
Appiah, who captained the Black Stars to its first World Cup appearance in 2006 in Germany says the ‘tornado’ represented one major way of giving back to the society that propelled him to stardom.
“Today I stand before you, humbled by my little achievement as a former skipper of the senior national team, the Black Stars of Ghana and also a former footballer who by the grace of God tasted football both locally and at the international level,” Appiah who also played for Turkish giants Fernerbahce said.
“This little achievement did not come because I am Stephen Appiah, but it came because throughout my life as a young boy and as a footballer, I enjoyed the support of many people who came my way.
“I enjoyed support from my family, coaches who made sure I made it to the top, doctors who treated me to get back on my feet anytime I got injured and most importantly Ghanaians all over the globe who prayed for me, wished me well, supported me and were always there for me both on and off the pitch.
“Amongst these well-wishers and supporters were the underprivileged, some of whom walked many miles and used their little income they had to pay gate fees just to support us and wish us well.
“Amongst these supporters also included the many physically challenged who usually forget their enormous pain and disability to cheer us onto victory.
“The question now is, if society did all these to push me to the top, why will I sit and fold arms and not give back to society.
“An answer to the above question is what we see today, the official launch of the tornado ball.
“This venture is one of many things I am already doing and hope to keep doing with my foundation.”
How I Toasted My Tall Wife — Aki Reveals
December 9, 2014 | 0 Comments
Aki Na Ukwa in 2001 got the actor Chinadu Ikedezie (Aki) to the road that kicked off his career.
Kaberuka receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Forbes Africa
December 7, 2014 | 0 Comments
The President of the African Development Bank Group, Donald Kaberuka, received the Forbes Africa Lifetime Achievement Award on Thursday, December 4 during the magazine’s 4th Annual Person of the Year Awards ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya. In a statement delivered on his behalf by Gabriel Negatu, Director of the AfDB’s East Africa Regional Resource Centre, Kaberuka expressed his appreciation for the award, which he dedicated to the 2,000 Bank staff, whom he said, “it is my privilege to lead. “Anything I have achieved in my ten year stint at the helm of this great Bank has been achieved with their unfailing support, skill and dedication.” Kaberuka saluted the leaders present at the evening’s awards, and called on them and others to carry the torch: “As I look back on my time in the service of Africa at the African Development Bank. I know we are winning, but we have not won yet. “Leadership will take us to the goal, and I salute the many of you tonight who are leaders. Your followers constitute the youngest and most dynamic population in the world. Africa has shown that it is a place of immense opportunity for its young people.” Nigerian business man Aliko Dangote received the Forbes Africa Person of the Year Award for 2014. Kaberuka, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, South African advocate Thuli Madonsela and Arunma Oteh, Director-General of Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission, were among the high-profile nominees. Kaberuka’s tenure as AfDB President comes to an end with the election of a new Bank President in May 2015.]]>
Haile Gebrselassie: From athletics to the boardroom
November 23, 2014 | 0 Comments
Gebrselassie wants new investors to come to Ethiopia[/caption]
Haile Gebrselassie is the most famous man in Ethiopia. The double Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion over 10,000m had a glittering athletics career and is now a successful and busy entrepreneur.So when you manage to get an interview with him, you don’t want to be late. Imagine our dismay then as we arrived at the Alem Building, affectionately named after Gebrselassie’s wife, to be told that a power cut meant the lifts were not working and we had to lug our cameras and equipment up eight flights of stairs to the top of the complex. Fortunately we got there before he did (he was also apparently delayed by the broken lifts). When he does enter, wearing a charcoal grey suit and blue shirt, the 41-year-old smiles broadly and apologises for the power cut. He appears to be breathing normally, unaffected by the climb up the stairs. He laughs it off and reminds us that he has lived most of his life in Addis Ababa, the highest city in Africa, and by now he’s used to the high altitude and also the frequent power cuts. The panoramic view from his office of the city and the nearby construction sites prompts a few questions about the investment choices he has made, which have turned him into a wealthy businessman. He plays down the role of his property business though, saying it hasn’t yielded high returns. Using the winnings from his athletics career Gebrselassie first dabbled in real estate by building a multipurpose centre in Addis Ababa. New ventures However, he later chose to diversify his portfolio by buying land for a coffee plantation. Coffee is the mainstay of the Ethiopian economy. It is the country’s largest export commodity and more than 20 million smallholders are involved in the trade.
The sector is so lucrative that a commodity exchange was established a decade ago, through which farmers working in co-operative unions can sell to the New York market through facilitated deals.For the “emperor of Ethiopian athletics”, coffee farming is a fairly recent venture, but it has already proven to be a profitable investment. “We have 1,500 hectares of land and we [used] 500 of that to plant full of coffee in two years,” he says. “Now we export organic coffee to other countries.” But he goes on: “That’s not enough, we in Ethiopia are rich in different resources.” Which explains his latest endeavour into the mining arena. [caption id="attachment_14354" align="alignright" width="624"] Gebrselassie set 27 world records and won Olympic gold in Sydney (pictured) and Atlanta[/caption] However, with mining companies still prospecting for gold, it may be a while before anyone can assess the full potential of a new mining industry in Ethiopia. ‘I believe in action’ Gebrselassie is obviously proud of his success in business, but he says people who assume that opportunities came easily to him because of his fame would be wrong. Shaking his head, he refers to the earlier electricity cuts and says, “Me too, I am affected.” In addition, he says that he had to build the road leading to his coffee farm, because if he had waited for the government it may have taken five or six years.
Turning to athletics, I ask if it was hard to make the shift from the track to the boardroom. He admits that he needed to make some adjustments, especially because in business there is no instant success.“I believe in action, running is action – running is just what you see… you win or not. In business you have to plan and wait.” He says his biggest challenge was working in a team and not being able to set personal goals. It’s been a humbling experience for the man who followed up his success on the track by setting world records in the marathon. “What I learnt is patience. A marathon is like two hours-plus of running. The 10,000m is less than 30 minutes. The same thing when I switch from running to business – I learn more patience.” Clear thinking Although he has now swapped his running shorts for a dapper suit he still finds joy in running and plans to compete in a race for people over the age of 40. Every day he jogs along the hills of Entoto, a mountainside town outside Addis Ababa. He says the morning air helps him think clearly. Interestingly, there have been moments in his business career when his mind wasn’t so clear. He recalls how 15 years ago, he decided to build the first ever cinema that would show locally made Ethiopian films, despite there being no local film industry. His architect questioned the sanity of the project. Gebrselassie laughs heartily when he remembers how it all happened. He found a freelance cameraman, commissioned him to write a script and after a few months an amateur film was made. The first screening had five customers, the next had 10, later 15 and thereafter another film was made. Just like that the local movie industry was born in Addis Ababa. He smirks and shrugs his shoulders, saying, “That’s how one creates something.” Japanese philosophy While the movie business entailed taking a risk, Gebrselassie is more measured when he considers what Africa needs to do in order to change the shape of local economies. Staring out of the window, looking at a city that’s rising from being a socialist-controlled economy into a free market, he makes a simple plea. “If you want to help Africa, don’t bring money. Rather, bring good ideas.” With that thought, the athlete-turned-businessman excuses himself, late for a leadership seminar taking place down the road. It’s a lesson about how to apply the Japanese kaizen philosophy in your business. He believes the session will help him streamline his thinking, his business and ultimately the country. He believes these are the lessons that will make Ethiopia function better as a frontier market that new investors are watching closely. *Source BBC]]>
Washington fêtes one of her most celebrated diplomats, HE. Tebelelo Seretse, at the Embassy of Botswana!
November 18, 2014 | 0 Comments
Friday night November 14, 2014 colleagues, diplomats, community and family members packed the Botswana embassy in Washington, DC to commemorate one of their most accomplished African diplomats: Ambassador Tebelelo Seretse- the first woman Ambassador of the Republic of Botswana to the United States. Telebelo’s relatively long four year tenure in DC had ended and Washingtonians came to express their appreciation of her great work in this city, as well as the impact she has had on other cities around the USA especially Maryland and West Virginia. The spirited going-away party held at the Embassy of the Republic of Botswana, emceed by emceed by Innocent Matengu and coordinated by Emolemo Morake, Minister Counselor of Botswana embassy, was bursting with friends and colleagues including HE Neil Parson, Ambassador to Trinidad & Tobago, H.E. Adebowale Adefuye, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, HE Liberata Mulamula, Ambassador of the United Republic of Tanzania and Ambassador Amelia Sumbana, the Embassy of the Republic of Mozambique, to name just a few. The energetic crowd responded enthusiastically to the speakers at the ceremony, which included Steve Matenje, Ambassador of the Republic of Malawi, who spoke with great wit and charm on behalf of his African colleague; Joyce Mpotu, who represented the Botswana diaspora; and many others from business and academic worlds, including references to her beloved Morgan State in West Virginia which Ambassador plugs as the college that “made her what she is today—a thinking Ambassador.” [caption id="attachment_14226" align="alignright" width="150"] Ladies with attitude.Photo Ben Bangoura[/caption] All had nothing but praises and loving words for Ambassador Seretse, who they referred to as their sister, their mother, their friend…she is an “outspoken person who is not afraid to speak her mind”, a “mainstream diplomat” who has been a beacon for the Botswana people, and a guiding light for Botswana , a stable and prosperous nation in Africa. of the highlights of the evening was an inspiring letter written to the Ambassador by the Honorable Edward R. Royce, Chairman of the House on Foreign Affairs who praised the Ambassador for her great work for her country. Before a cheering crowd, Tebelelo said “With everything I heard tonight, I thought I was dying.” She went on to reflect on some of her accomplishments in Washington, including a strong link between Botswana and US on matters ranging from trade education to tourism, etc. [caption id="attachment_14227" align="alignleft" width="150"] Ambassador Steve Matenje of Malawi delivering remarks on behalf of his colleagues[/caption] Throughout her talk, the Ambassador praised many in the audience for their role in her life during her tenure –some of those included Linda Greene of Greene & Associates, Jan Du Plain of Cultural Tourism DC’s Passport DC and Sandy Taylor of Welcome to Washington, International Clubs Inc. The speeches ended with the Ambassador and some of her colleagues sang an African gospel to the ecstatic crowd. The merriment continued into the night with laughter, energetic exchanges and delicious culinary specialties from Botswana. A US educated diplomat, Telebelo was a member of parliament from 1999 to 2004, then several times cabinet minister before she was appointed Ambassador to US in 2011. Even though she did not reveal her future plans, her American friends continue to encourage her to consider a future Presidential bid in Botswana. An idea she refused to discuss with AlloConakry Friday. “Whatever you do Mrs. Ambassador”, says Steve Matenji of Malawi, “don’t forget us at the Banquet table.” *Courtesy of Allo Conakry. Photos by Ben Bangura]]>
President Kaberuka receives Ivorian footballer and humanitarian Didier Drogba to discuss partnership to tackle Ebola crisis
November 15, 2014 | 1 Comments
African Development Bank Group President Donald Kaberuka met with Didier Drogba, Ivorian footballer and humanitarian, at the AfDB headquarters in Abidjan on Friday, November 14 to discuss ways to tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
In their private meeting, Kaberuka and Drogba discussed a partnership between the AfDB and the Didier Drogba Foundation in an effort to respond to Ebola, a health crisis that according to the World Health Organization has infected more than 14,098 people since March 2014, resulting in 5,160 deaths.
“Today, the Bank Group is receiving Drogba and his Foundation as a vibrant symbol. With such a great voice and personality, we shall build a partnership and mobilize resources to eradicate Ebola. A technical team will work towards the partnership,” Kaberuka told journalists during an afternoon press conference.
The spread of the virus has highlighted the need for improved health-care systems, and has driven back development progress in post-conflict countries that were on the road to recovery. The countries most affected by the virus are Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Drogba expressed happiness to see the Bank back home in Abidjan, which is significant for Côte d’Ivoire’s stability. The country has emerged from a sociopolitical crisis and was looking for a symbol of its revival, he said. “[The Bank’s return] is the greatest symbol and I thank you for that.
“My coming to the AfDB is also to thank the institution for all it has done for this country as well as for innovative projects and funds for Africa. These funds will help the continent to eliminate Ebola. I am proud and honoured to be associated with the Bank in this fight against Ebola,” said Drogba.
“I call on the youth to join me in the fight. Ebola is there. It is serious. I will do what I can to help.”
The African Development Bank Group has so far channeled US $220 million, through the World Health Organization, towards strengthening West Africa’s public health systems in response to the Ebola crisis.
At an historic meeting on Saturday, November 8 at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the African Union together with African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and leading businesses in Africa joined forces to create and support a funding mechanism to deal with the Ebola outbreak and its consequences.
Established under the auspices of the African Union Foundation through a facility managed by the African Development Bank, the fund will boost efforts to equip, train and deploy African health workers to fight the epidemic.
Created in 2007, the Didier Drogba Foundation provides financial and material support to help improve the health and education of Africans. The Foundation provided support to schools, hospitals and orphanages in Côte d’Ivoire and since 2012 the Chelsea striker has played an active role in the fight against malaria.
Both Drogba’s foundation and the AfDB are determined to address the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
Football hero Weah to run for Liberian senate
November 13, 2014 | 0 Comments
Monrovia (AFP) – African football legend George Weah said on Wednesday he had quit his job as peace ambassador in his native Liberia to run for senator.[caption id="attachment_14098" align="alignleft" width="300"] Football legend George Weah says he is running for senator in his native Liberia (AFP Photo/Valery Hache)[/caption]
Weah, widely regarded as Africa’s greatest-ever player, gave President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf his resignation letter on Tuesday in preparation to stand in Montserrado county, which includes the capital Monrovia.
“I am running for senior senator of Montserrado and that is my target now,” he told AFP.
Weah, the leader of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change, was quoted in a statement from the presidency as thanking Sirleaf for the post, which “enabled him to contribute to the promotion of peace and stability”.
The former AC Milan superstar was appointed in December 2012 after Nobel laureate Leymon Gborwee resigned the post, accusing Sirleaf of nepotism.
Weah’s job was principally to facilitate the peace process following 14 years of ruinous civil war which ended in 2003 after the deaths of 250,000 people
The role has been complicated by an Ebola epidemic which has devastated Liberia’s public services and health infrastructure, killing 5,000 people in west Africa in 11 months.
Nationwide senatorial elections had been due to take place in October but were suspended until December 16, with a mass mobilisation of voters deemed unsafe at the height of the epidemic.
A glamorous figure at home, the rags-to-riches story of the man his compatriots call King George has provided a rare beacon of hope for impoverished people who treat him as an icon.
A member of the Kru ethnic group mired in poverty, Weah was raised by his grandmother on a reclaimed swamp in one of the worst slums of Monrovia.[caption id="attachment_14099" align="alignright" width="300"] Former Liberian soccer player George Weah, President of the “Ebola Emergency France” association, gives 5,000 pair of gloves to the Elwa hospital on September 8, 2014 in Monrovia (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget)[/caption]
In the 1994-1995 season he was named both African and European player of the year after top scoring in Europe’s prime tournament, the Champions League, with eight goals.
Now 48, he has parlayed outstanding spells at Monaco, Paris Saint Germain, Milan and Chelsea into a career in politics, although his two campaigns in the 2005 and 2011 presidential elections were unsuccessful.
His senate bid is widely seen as a step towards another tilt at the presidency in 2017, although he will have to convince his party that he can make it third time lucky.
“For the presidential it is the party that will decide during the convention in 2017,” he told AFP.*Source Yahoo/AFP]]>
A Circle of Celebration, Forged in Africa
November 9, 2014 | 0 Comments
JON PARELES* [caption id="attachment_13953" align="alignleft" width="675"] Angelique Kidjo performing with Dominic James on guitar at Carnegie Hall. Credit Ruby Washington/The New York Times[/caption]
One strong African woman honored another at Angélique Kidjo’s tribute concert for Miriam Makeba on Wednesday night at Carnegie Hall, where she was joined by Vusi Mahlasela from South Africa, Laura Mvulu from England and Ezra Koenig from the African-influenced New York City band Vampire Weekend. Whoopi Goldberg started the concert with praise for both Makeba, who died in 2008, and Ms. Kidjo.
Wearing brightly patterned dresses, singing with joyful vehemence and dancing with struts and twirls and shoulder shakes, Ms. Kidjo was respectful, yet far from solemn, in a concert drawn almost entirely from the Makeba repertory. It was the finale of Carnegie’s Ubuntu festival, marking 20 years since the end of apartheid in South Africa: a cause Makeba devoted herself to through decades of exile after South Africa revoked her passport in 1963.
It was by no means Ms. Kidjo’s first acknowledgment of Makeba as her role model. Ms. Kidjo is from Benin, in West Africa, and has lived in Paris and now Brooklyn. Like Makeba, she has drawn deeply on her African heritage while making global fusions; the concert included songs in six languages. She recorded a Makeba standard, the Tanzanian love song “Malaika,” for her 1991 album, “Logozo,” and sang it on Wednesday night.
Ms. Kidjo is a rawer, more brazen singer than Makeba; with bent notes and raspy peaks, she brings the West African roots of the blues into her songs. What she shares with Makeba is conviction and compassion as she seeks the universal sentiment in songs from particular places: a lullaby from Indonesia (“Suliram”), a song about working in South African mines (“The Retreat Song”), a topical message (“Soweto Blues”).
Ms. Kidjo supplemented her regular band, which easily commands a huge variety of African-diaspora styles, with three South African singers — Faith Kekana, Stella Khumalo and Zamo Mbutho — who had backed up Makeba. They brought the lush, precisely swooping harmonies of South African tradition, which were especially striking when they joined Ms. Kidjo for a cappella passages.
But Ms. Kidjo wasn’t reproducing the old Makeba sound; she was pushing it harder. “Pole Mze” — a Kenyan song praising that country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta — had a gentle Afro-Cuban lilt in Makeba’s version; Ms. Kidjo’s band drove it all the way into salsa. Her guests picked up her enthusiasm — especially Mr. Mahlasela, a courageous songwriter during the apartheid era, with a jovial presence and a robust, soaring voice that rose to match Ms. Kidjo’s own power.
Carnegie Hall, however, wasn’t the right room for the concert. Although Ms. Kidjo’s drummer, Yayo Serka, played behind a plastic partition and used a light touch, the music’s danceable beats were blurred by the hall’s reverberation. But Ms. Kidjo didn’t let acoustics impede her. She sang her way through the audience and up into the balcony, illuminated by flashing cellphone cameras, and got the audience on its feet, singing along and dancing to join a song Ms. Kidjo wrote for both Makeba and the continent: “Afirika.”
Femi Otedola: The billionaire who bounced back!
November 1, 2014 | 0 Comments
London could be Nigeria’s 37th state. From the underground to the finest hotels, you can hear an army of Nigerians on the march. There is an attitude about them – forward thinking, money spending- a force steeling Britain’s economy with streetwise Lagos cut-and-thrust. Be it academia, business, or just plain rich, there is plenty of Nigeria to go around in London. One of the best known is the Nigerian billionaire, Femi Otedola, who owns a $53.5-million home in the heart of rich Knightsbridge. Otedola, the man who always wears white, clearly doesn’t believe in doing things by half. He owns a fleet of custom Roll Royce cars in London and Mercedes fleet in Nigeria, together worth $7.7 million. On the waters off Lagos, he was a sleek, custom-made, $19.5 million yacht in the Victoria Island lagoon. His home in Lagos is bigger than the one on Knightsbridge, with more expansive balconies and better weather. Be it homes, gadgets or cars; Otedola appears to love the good life and doesn’t mind spending on it. On a Thursday morning in his tastefully furnished London pad adorned with family portraits, we meet for a chat; Otedola is jolly, answering phone calls and checking stocks on his tablets. He does this every morning after a few hours in the gym. There is no doubt it has been another prosperous year for the chairman of a leading Nigerian downstream oil company. Otedola was the second Nigerian to make the FORBES billionaires list in 2009. Following a major plunge in the shares of African Petroleum (now Forte Oil), he felt off the list. Another blow came when he topped the list if Nigeria’s debtors- owing banks around $900 million. Otedola has since reshuffled his finances and paid off every cent, according to the asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). He returns to the FORBES AFRICA. The rise in net worth was helped by a spike in the share price of his company, Forte Oil where he owns an 80% shareholding. Otedola is part of a group of relatively young men who represent the new face of Nigerian capitalism. Born around the sixties and seventies, they came of age in the eighties and nineties as Nigeria inched deeper into military dictatorships that crippled the economy and the ambitions of entrepreneurs. They had to wait until the return of democracy in 1999- and the subsequent opening up of the economy- to unleash their entrepreneurial skills. They have since taken advantage of the upturn in the country’s fortunes; their rise coinciding with waves of Nigeria’s economic reform. “NO ONE IS INVINCIBLE. YOU COULD BE RIGHT UP THERE TODAY AND THEN, LOSE IT ALL TOMORROW, IF YOU ‘RE NOT ON TOP OF YOUR GAME.” So, how do you run up $1.5 billion in debt and become solvent in few years? Just ask Otedola, who believes it was something he had to go through that had an echo in his childhood. “I had my first business at the age of six. It was called FEMCO. I’d offer to groom my parents’ guests’ nails. Then, write a receipt and charge them for my service. They paid me too. I always had interest in business. For my seventh Christmas present, I remember asking my dad for a briefcase. I just thought it was a good look. He gave me one of his and I insisted on taking it to school with me. The Kids laughed at me, but I still loved the briefcase”. Down the years, Otedola nursed his passion and grew up TO WORK for his late father, Micheal Otedola, the former governor of Lagos State. It was a career that began with inky fingers. Otedola ran the marketing side of the family printing press in the late 1980s. It was a springboard to becoming a name in the world of Nigerian business. An insight into the way Otedola’s mind worked came years later in a very public feud with his now best friend Aliko Dangote- the richest man in Africa. The squabble was over a bid for the Nigerian arm of Chevron, Texaco’s downstream business, which the company put up to sale in 2006. Otedola- the oil – and gas man and second largest shareholder in Texaco at the time – was beaten to it by a company with links to Dangote, the cement-and commodities man; a move said to be in violation of a gentleman’s agreement to respect each other’s turf. When Otedola announced that he would be investing in sugar and cement factories- Dangote territory- few missed the dig in the ribs. The squabble lingered, but the storm passed, leaving the two men closer than brothers. A nautical manifestation of this is their identical yachts that bob side-by side in the lagoon off Lagos. “It was a case of conspiracy theories. Aliko and I have a genuine relationship and it was only natural that we had few differences along the line. Today, he is my mentor. I like his sincerity and integrity. Aliko’s word is his bond and I have a lot of respect for my friend. I believe he is real blessing to Nigeria and Africa as a whole. He is a godsend to his continent. I believe Aliko is highly underrated too. He will become the richest man on the FORBES list someday,” says Otedola. Otedola’s foray into oil business began after he stopped WORKING for himself. Being the son of a governor, Otedola had friends in government who supplied him with diesel. Friends that didn’t do his business any harm down the years. When the political climate changed, the supply stopped. He made enquires and approached a company for fresh supplies of diesel. The light bulb in his head went off when Otedola saw a clanking, broken-down truck deliver supplies to his house three days after placing the order. He decided to open his own, more efficient, diesel supply business. “I started buying diesel from a guy who had control of the market for retailing. I soon realized that a lot of the companies in the company actually use diesel. I once received an order from a bid transport company. The banks were closed so I could only offer a cheque. I was my supplier’s biggest customer but he refused to take a cheque from me. I immediately realized I needed to source an alternative method of getting my diesel.” With outrageous ambition, Otedola approached the new management of the depot, which was worth $4 million, and offered to buy it for $20 million. “I contacted Zenith Bank, sold my pitch on the venture and how we would finance it. I had a meeting that barely lasted for 10 minutes with Jim Ovia (another billionaire on the FORBES rich list); he believed in me and it was a done deal. This was in 2003. Soon, Otedola had a full control of the diesel supply infrastructure with his company, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, holding 91% of the market. It turned out to be a great business decision. He set up a transport and shipping company in line with the logistics attached with the diesel supply – F.O Transport and Seaforce Shipping. At a stroke, he took control of the entire chain. He went further to diversify into property and buying into a string of other large companies. He was 35; he felt the adrenalin rush and wanted to dominate the market. All this in a mere seven years. At this point, Otedola’s biggest competitors were oil giants Total and Mobil. Soon, he was setting the diesel price and supplying his competitors. “While my competitors were sleeping, I was BUSY strategizing. I was liberal too. My strategy was; high volume, little margin. I was very excited at this point. However, I knew that at some point the government would fix the power issue (diesel is mainly used for generators during power cut) and I needed to move a step forward.” In what proved a wise move to cushion the business, Zenon bought a 28.7% stake in the African Petroleum. Zenon invested aggressively across the financial sector becoming the second largest shareholder in Zenith Bank, largest individual shareholder at the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and many more banks in Nigeria, as banks sought share capital, following a new directive from the reserve bank, many approached Otedola. He rolled the dice in the knowledge he was playing safe. At the time, Zenon was very solvent and the largest diesel importer in Nigeria. It invested a lot of money in Africa Petroleum with Otedola increasing the shareholding from 28.7& to about 55&, at a cost of $400 million. Then, the worst happened – the crude oil prices plunged from $146 to $36 in 2008. “We took a very big hit and I lost about %1.5 million, plus interest, in the process. When the oil prices were dropping, I saw it all coming. I could myself losing big money. I had diesel worth $400 million on the high seas. It didn’t look good. I’m a capitalist though. I was great while the money was rolling in. Now that i lost so much, it was also time to face the tune. It was a very low time for me and I explored different options, including suicide, but ultimately, I knew I had to solve this problem. My debts had to be paid.” “The same banks that had once sent pretty sales ladies TO GET MONEY from me for their accounts in the past were now sending tough looking men to knock at my door to get me to pay my debts in the morning. The only people I’d credit this point were my wife for her great support, Jim Ovia of Zenith Bank and Segun Agbaje of Guaranty Trust Bank who understood the situation and offered a restructured of the loans for ease of payment. I was however determined to pay it all up and move on. The banks sold the debts to Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria. It was a total of N200 billion ($1.2 billion).” Otedola separated his personal fortune from his business, so Zenon was bankrupt but he wasn’t. AMCON bought the debt for %867 million. They valued the Zenon assets, Otedola’s property company and existing assets. He added some cash and there was a court settlement. He had also started selling his bank shares, before the big plunge. It dragged on for four years. “The most important lesson I learnt, is that no one is invincible. No matter how high up there you are today, you can lose it all tomorrow if you’re not on top of your game. I also learnt that being good entrepreneur does not necessarily make you a good BUSINESS MANAGER. I learned to keep my hands off managing and leave it in the hands of experts.” Today, Otedola describes his approach to business as very risk averse and content. Having sold all the Zenon assets to pay his debts, he shifted his focus to African Petroleum which had to go through restructuring. Otedola’s fingers were burned and he was going to be tougher this time around. In 2011, a complete overhaul saw him sack all staff at Africa Petroleum, albeit with a handsome severance package. In the restructuring, Africa Petroleum became Forte oil. “I also made a decision not to run the business as I had failed at running it well. I then brought in a crop of fresh young talented guys to take over. I wanted fresh, brilliant minds and ideas. I wanted to build an institution based on the best corporate governance practices; a whole new direction.” Forte oil owns about 500 retail outlets across the 36 states of Nigeria. Its audited half year 2014 results shows growth. Its revenue grew by 33% to %511.18 million as against the 7385.03 million in 2003. Contributing significantly to revenue, for the first time, is the company’s power generation segment from Amperion Power. Under Nigeria’s power privatization PROGRAM, it acquired the 414MW Geregu plant in Kogi State. Overall sales costs increased by 30% to $453.39 million from 4348.20 million in 2003 gross profit surged by 57% to $57.79 million from $36.82 million while profit before tax grew by 152% to 426.92 million from 410.68 million. Alongside recovery in underlying business performance, exposure to the power sector acted as a catalyst for a rise in the share price at Forte Oil. The company has aggressive ambitions and is on the brink of a big deal. On returning to the FORBES list, Otedola says; “It is good to be back and is simply an addiction of how well we are doing.” On family, he says: “I’m extremely dedicated to my family. They come first at all times.” Speaking of family, Otedola’s daughter is on the way up though turntables rather than oil barrels. Florence Otedola, one of the four children who is also known as ‘DJ Cuppy’, plays and produces music on the dance floors and flies around the world to spin the tunes. “Cuppy is a very smart young lady who will go places. She has done very well and is currently in the United States for her Master’s program. She is very talented at her DJing. It is her passion and I have no choice but to support her. I want my children to follow their respective passion and I’ll support them to the best ability.” Otedola believes Nigerians are enterprising and therein lies the country’s strength. He detests the bad light in which Nigeria is often seen and hopes for fairer reporting that celebrates its successes as well. “I’d like to see a Nigeria with about 50 Dangotes,” he says on Nigeria’s future. As the FORBES list welcomes Otedola back, he is looking towards a brighter future and increasing his $1.2-billion wealth. He may have made a small slice of FORBES history by making a billion, losing it and clawing it back. Either way, he is burned, humble and bouncing back- wiser than ever. Man of Courage, Tenacity and Vision By Abisola Owolawi Femi Otedola’s business empire collapsed along with the shares of his company but he fought back to take his place among an elite group of successful African entrepreneurs. His fortitude has earned the respect of his peers. “The African business landscape is challenging but also full of opportunities for discerning entrepreneurs. Femi Otedola belongs to this class of bold entrepreneurs that have been able to navigate the storms often associated with doing business in Africa,” says Aliko Dangote the President and Chief Executive of Dangote Group. “He is a man of immense courage, tenacity, and vision who is not afraid to take on new challenges. He represents the indomitable Nigerian spirit – adapt and conquer.” Dolapo Oni, an Energy Analyst with the Ecobank Group, says there are three factors behind Otedola’s and Forte Oil’s recent success. “The First is the improvements in the payment of subsidiaries in 2013. Faster payment of cycles enabled companies such as Forte Oil to deleverage their balance sheets and improve their bottom- line. The second factor was the optimistic market reaction to the company’s acquisition of the Geregu power plant. The final factor is the inclusion of Forte Oil in JP Morgan’s emerging market stock index (MSCI) in May, which immediately triggered interest from portfolios,” says Oni. Jim Ovia, Chairman of Zenith Bank, admires Otedola’s resilience. “He has experienced the vicissitudes of doing business on the African continent in recent years. I have however encouraged and believed in him through the entire course. He has remained resolute in his quest and today, it is a pleasure to celebrate his successes,” says Ovia. “Otedola is a true survivor.” *Source: Forbes Magazine]]>
South Africa: We need a person who will arrest Jacob Zuma – Julius Malema
November 1, 2014 | 0 Comments
Crystal Oderson in Cape Town* [caption id="attachment_13579" align="alignleft" width="710"] Julius Malema, Commander-in-chief, Economic Freedom Fighters. Photo©Daniel Boshoff for TAR[/caption] To judge by the reaction of the ruling African National Congress, the militant tactics of Julius Malema and the EFF are hitting their targets. In this exclusive interview, Malema explains why he is pressing President Jacob Zuma to repay state funds spent on his Nkandla homestead. The old adage runs that revolutions eat their children – but in South Africa some argue that the children are eating the revolution. The ‘children’ in question are Julius Malema and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the younger generation of militants who broke away from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) a year ago to form their own party. As president of the ANC Youth League, Malema had been a rising star and benefited from the tutelage of some of the movement’s veterans such as Winnie Mandela. Five years ago, Malema was one of President Jacob Zuma’s loudest cheerleaders, leading a band of comrades pledging they were ready “to kill for Zuma”. That was a political lifetime ago. After openly clashing with Zuma’s leadership on policy, Malema was expelled from the ANC. And just nine months later he launched the EFF, it won more than a million votes in the national elections in May. Malema – the EFF’s commander-in-chief – and the party’s 24 legislators entered parliament in June as the third-biggest party. But with the ANC winning almost two thirds of the 400 seats and with master tacticians in its ranks, few believed the EFF would make its voice heard, let alone land any blows. A clash between a vigorous Malema and a tired-looking Zuma during parliamentary questions in late August changed the dynamic. Malema asked Zuma a simple question: When was he going to pay back the state’s money judged by the Public Protector to have been wrongly spent on his Nkandla homestead? Zuma said the subject was covered in a report sent to parliament two days earlier. “We are here to ask questions and need answers,” responded Malema. “I have responded to the reports on Nklandla and the Special Investigations Unit,” insisted Zuma. Malema objected to this reply while some ANC members tried to block follow-up questions from the EFF. Then Malema’s comrades started chanting “Pay back the money” and banging the desks. What ensued was the biggest disruption in the post-apartheid parliament, with police in riot gear called to the building to restore order. Unperturbed, the EFF continued chanting with the fracas broadcast live on television. Accused of protecting Zuma from more awkward questions, the speaker and ANC chairperson, Baleka Mbete, adjourned parliament and called in the riot police to deal with scuffles between ANC and EFF supporters and MPs in the parliamentary precinct. The ANC’s Gwede Mantashe accused the EFF of “trampling on the dignity of parliament […] and if you want to destroy that institution you will regret it […] when there is no parliament, there will be dictatorship.” There were some improbable supporters of the EFF’s actions. Dawie Roodt, the Efficient Group’s chief economist, argued that the EFF was effectively scrutinising the ANC. “I don’t agree with their actions or ideology, but they have strengthened democracy and have given the DA [Democratic Alliance] and ANC a wake-up call”. said Roodt. ● The Africa Report: Is the opposition getting its case across in parliament? Julius Malema: The ruling party will try to muzzle the debate. We are in politics, and politics are a contested terrain. We shouldn’t be crybabies and we must fight for our voice to be heard. Are we getting closer to the truth about the upgrades to Zuma’s Nkandla house? He thought it was business as usual [in parliament], where he gives useless answers, laughs and then leaves. He thought it was his normal day of just coming to show off. I said to him: “We are not going to leave here today without an answer.” And he laughed. He thought I was joking. And he needs to start taking this country seriously. He also needs to start appreciating the fact that he’s going to jail. Once he finishes his term of office, if he does finish it […] he’s going to be locked up. All his friends will be gone, and he will not have power. It will be very easy for him to be arrested. The best thing Zuma should have done was to face this thing now when he still has power. Go to court, win there. He thinks he can be president for ever – he’s setting himself up for failure. Why is everyone in the ANC defending Zuma and condemning your tactics? They do that because they’re suffering from uncontrollable ambition for power. They were trying to impress [Zuma] in case he thinks of a reshuffle or anything else. But they say horrible things about him behind closed doors. After two years, Zuma will know what it means to be a rejected person. Zuma is not powerful. Thabo [Mbeki] used to be powerful. We used to run in Luthuli House when Thabo gets into the office. We used to run into our offices and lock ourselves in – not because he’s going to beat us up or anything – but we just didn’t know what we were going to say to him when we saw him. Zuma doesn’t have that stature and that presence, but Thabo was feared by everybody. Towards the end of his term he was reduced to nothing. Zuma is going to experience the same thing. The president must pay this thing of Nklandla. The ANC is preparing for a new president. Paul Mashatile said Cyril Ramaphosa must be the president. We are barely six months into the new office […] a clear indication they can’t wait for the man to go. Would you favour Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as our first female president in 2019? I won’t agree with her becoming the president because she’s going to protect her husband. I’ve sat with Nkosazana in ANC meetings and the passion with which she defends Zuma is so scary. If we need a woman president, I think that Winnie Mandela can be a very good president and Naledi Pandor as her deputy. Naledi has the ear and the eyes to help her. I knew her [Pandor] to be the most independent person, [one] who’s very clear and articulate. She was never scared to take on Zuma. Nkosazana is highly compromised and conflicted, and I don’t think she will take us anywhere. We need a person who is going to arrest Jacob Zuma after his term of office. That person must have courage. Must have the balls of steel and the breast of steel to say: “You’re corrupt, you messed up our country and therefore you must go to jail.” What about Ramaphosa as president? Cyril is driven by personal interest to accumulate wealth. He’s doing everything in his power to become a dollar billionaire. And he’s driven by personal ambition and the self-centredness type of an agenda. And he’s suffering from exaggerated self-importance. He behaves like South Africa owes him something. He did that to [Nelson] Mandela when Mandela didn’t make him deputy president. Many people don’t know that Cyril Ramaphosa didn’t attend Mandela’s inauguration at the Union Buildings. Why? Because he was beaten. A person who loves this country misses Mandela’s inauguration because Mandela didn’t make him what he wanted to become. It’s about him. It’s not about the country. He’s in the pockets of white capital. And if he takes over, he will help white monopoly capital to continue to milk South Africa. We need people who love this country, who will defend this country. Do you regret being kicked out of the ANC? I have no regrets. I’ve played my part. In politics, things don’t just happen for no reason. We’re all writing our own history. I’ve left a very serious mark in the politics of the youth. And it is going to take a very long time for anyone to replace that. I see they are trying to reorganise the youth league and it will never be the same. A precedent has been created that anyone who challenges the leadership will be removed from the youth league. You are facing corruption charges – is the system going after you? Well, the system has been set against me. They set the South African Revenue Service on me, and I said: ‘If I owe you, let me pay.’ We are done with that. Now we’re going to a cri inal case. The person or people charged for having bribed me […] they were tried separately from me and were acquitted. They are free. I’m going to court and I will be declared innocent because I’ve never taken money from anyone, never worked for the state and never issued tenders. Why am I being charged? Because people can’t defeat me politically. They use the state organs to try and silence me. And they will never succeed because the courts in this country are the only remaining credible thing. What does your party stand for that’s distinct from your rivals? We are an alternative to the ruling party 20 years into democracy. We want to be the government and are going to use parliament as a platform to fight for issues. We cannot defeat unemployment if we do not own the mineral and natural resources because white monopoly capital exploits the resources and leaves Africa with a crisis of unemployment and poverty and inequality. We must nationalise our assets to beneficiate and industrialise. Without industrialisation, we will never defeat unemployment. You have to protect the local market and the local investors through raising the import tariffs so that it is cheaper to buy from home than outside. Why should your party be different from other opposition groups? Leaders like Mosiuoa Lekota were not young. He didn’t have the energy we have and was not a militant radical. He didn’t have any ideological perspective […] no branches or membership. We are different because we are pursuing socialism, an agenda that the ANC and its constituency have abandoned. Socialism, economic freedom in our lifetime. We want to be in every corner of the country, and we are here to stay. What’s the progress with getting land redistribution without compensation? We will vote with the ANC to expropriate the land without compensation. And we don’t believe that the [government’s] reopening of the land claims is genuine […] particularly with Zuma because the first thing the Zulu royal family did was to claim lots of pieces of land. I think it is a transaction by Zuma. He wants to milk us once more through the so-called land claims [courts]. It’s stealing public money and funding criminals who stole our land and butchered our people. The only thing we want is expropriation of land without compensation. The ANC supports us actually. [It] has got a resolution that ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ is not a good policy. Where will your party be in 2019? We are going to be the government, we are taking over. It was a good thing for us to fight to come to parliament because it gives you a platform to articulate what you represent. If we get branches all over South Africa, we are guaranteed of taking over in 2019. We’re on a mission. Do you have presidential ambitions? If you are a teacher, there’s no way you can’t have an ambition of [being] a principal – then you lack vision. So any politician for sure will want to assume the highest office in the land. The EFF will be the one to tell us if we should continue to represent them at that level. ● *Source theafricareport]]>
Meet the man who tamed Nigeria's most lawless city
October 25, 2014 | 0 Comments
Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos, has transformed the city – and helped halt the spread of Ebola in Nigeria By Colin Freeman*
A Private Meeting with President Obama to Discuss ISIS and Boko Haram
October 22, 2014 | 0 Comments
By Tanya Young Williams* Anthony Egbase, a nationalized American from Nigeria with dual citizenship, sat down with President Obama to discuss foreign policy and specifically the terror attacks in Syria by ISIS and in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Mr. Egbase is a highly respected Los Angeles attorney, who is licensed to practice in California, Maryland, District of Columbia and Nigeria. Egbase did not speak with the President as a representative or advocate of the Nigerian government, although he has friends in top government offices there. He participated in this discussion as a concerned Nigerian desiring that the United States offer more assistance to Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram. On September 26th, in a very intimate setting, with approximately 20 attendees, the President discussed Egbase’s concerns and recommendations as they pertain to the United States’ involvement, or lack thereof, in addressing the crisis of terrorism in Nigeria. The United States has designated Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization and the United Nations has sanctioned Boko Haram as an Al-Qaida-linked terror group. Egbase confessed that he entered the meeting believing that President Obama was a man of African descent but was emotionally far removed from the crippling plight of many in Africa. He left the meeting wonderfully impressed, with not only the President’s in-depth understanding of Nigeria’s culture and political intricacies, but moved by his deep concern for the travesties occurring in Nigeria and Syria. The overriding message conveyed by President Obama was threefold: 1) the Nigerian government is fully capable of defeating Boko Haram 2) the United States cannot be solely responsible for ridding all of the world of its evil and 3) the shedding of American blood in foreign land is to be avoided whenever possible. I spoke with Anthony Egbase, exclusively, to learn more about how the Obama administration’s plans to deal with ISIS and Boko Haram in the wake of the escalated terrorist attacks. Q. Did you discuss ISIS with President Obama? Egbase: Yes we discussed ISIS. The President discussed ISIS in his opening foreign policy discussion. He focused on the war with ISIS and expressed his satisfaction with the way the US military is carrying out the campaign. He was particularly happy that there have been no civilian casualties because of the precise nature of the air strikes. Q. Did you discuss Boko Haram with President Obama? Egbase: Yes. We spent about 90 minutes discussing Boko Haram, the Nigerian government and the religious divide between northern and southern Nigeria. I was quite amazed about how knowledgeable he was about Nigeria. Q. Do you see any similarities between the ISIS terrorist strategies and that of Boko Haram? Egbase: Yes, and I informed Mr. President that Boko Haram is just as lethal as ISIS. In response to my statement, he agreed that Boko Haram is just as “dangerous” as ISIS. Q. Do you believe that Boko Haram is communicating with ISIS? Egbase: There is no doubt that Boko Haram is communicating with ISIS. They are both made up of religious extremists who want to kill people and or get killed. They believe killing people or getting killed will lead them to their goal. The two groups’ mode of operation is the same as they want to establish “Islamic Caliphate” even though their dream is unrealistic as they will kill themselves or be killed before that happens. Boko Haram kills and behead foreigners just like ISIS and they have attacked the United Nations building in the capital city of Nigeria killing foreigners. Q. What did the President share regarding the United States support of Nigeria in fighting Boko Haram? Egbase: I did not realize how much other countries in the world look to the United States for help until the President mentioned the same. Specifically, the calls from Ukraine, the Philippines and other natural disaster areas around the world. In his words, “they do not call on China or Russia, they call on us.” The President reminded me, as did his wife did at my meeting with her 10 days prior, that the United States in one country and cannot afford to commit its resources and personnel to fighting evil all over the world. The President’s opinion was that Nigeria, with its military capability right now, can obliterate Boko Haram. He added, however, the problem is Nigerian government’s fear that going all out against Boko Haram will alienate a certain portion of the Nigerian society. I stated that in some quarters in Nigeria, some believe that Nigeria’s inability to combat Boko Haram is partly due to the US embargo against Nigeria. The alleged embargo restricts Nigeria from purchasing arms from the United States. The President did not confirm or deny that the United States has such an embargo against Nigeria. Q. What were some of the suggestions made by the President in addressing Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram? Egbase: He stated that changing the mindset of the people as part of solving the problem of terrorism. The President said that he would like to see many African nations form a coalition to address the Boko Haram problem. He did not specifically mention that the United States would support Nigeria if a coalition is achieved, however in the context he used it, I believe he would consider lending more support to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram if this happens. Q. What do you think the United States can do to make an immediate impact against Boko Haram? Egbase: I believe the United States, with its unique militarily and intelligence gathering capabilities, can help Nigeria combat the growing cancer Boko Haram. Like I mentioned above, many Nigerians believe the United States embargo against Nigeria is hampering the Nigerian government’s ability to fight Boko Haram. On the other hand, many Nigerians believe Nigeria is reluctant to seek United States assistance because Nigeria does not want to appear too close to the West which will alienate a certain section of the Nigerian society. To this point, the US Assistant Secretary for Africa Ms. Linda Thomas-Greenfield was quotedas saying to the Nigeria government in Abuja “the time of denial and pride was over” and that Nigeria should openly embrace US military assistance. Q. What immediate steps should the Nigerian government take in the fight against Boko Haram? Egbase: Nigeria government should take control of its northern border to prevent Boko Haram, which is made up of mainly foreigners, from coming in. Nigeria should increase it’s military and intelligence capabilities by doing all it can to tap into the United States unique capabilities. It can start by putting pressure on the Obama administration to review the Leheay Amendment if that is the problem. I believe the United States will listen to this because if Nigeria becomes a failed state there will be many more “underwear bombers“. Contemporaneously, the Nigerian government needs to lead the efforts, as it has done in the past, getting other African countries together, especially those affected like Cameron and Chad and form a coalition as President Obama would like to see happen.These immediate steps will enable Nigeria to have a fertile ground to plant the seed of reclaiming the affected communities. This will also enable the government to provide education and infrastructural development to the affected areas. Q. What was the most powerful statement the President made that you haven’t heard elsewhere? Egbase: The Presidents statement that part of the problem is the Nigerian government’s belief that coming down too hard on Boko Haram will alienate certain portion of Nigerian society. Q. Did you discuss the missing 200 Chibok school girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014? Egbase: No we did not discuss that unfortunately. However, at my meeting with the First Lady, I thanked her regarding her public condemnation of Boko Haram when the kidnapping happened. She talked extensively of many African leaders refusing to take the lead in training girls and changing the mindset of the people about equality between girls and boys. This she argues creates fertile ground for kidnapping of girls that simply want to go to school. Q. What is your take on recent reports that the Chibok school girls are to be returned within days of this article posting? Egbase: It is my prayers that the cease fire deal comes to fruition. Every right thinking person wants “our girls back” and we all hope the insurgency stops. However, I question whether the deal is realistic in light of the fact that we are dealing with religious extremists. For any meaningful deal to be reached, the following questions must be resolved: Have the members of Boko Haram suddenly decided to have change of heart? Have they renounced their ambition of forming a religious caliphate? Are they now willing to live side by side with Christians and other moderate Muslims? Do they now believe Western education is okay for their girls? I don’t see how one reaches a compromise on these types of issues. Nevertheless, again, I pray the cease fire deal is real. Q. Did you offer the President any suggestions regarding the United States assisting Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram? Egbase: At some point I suggested to the President that many countries seeking United States assistance can actually afford to pay for such assistance. At that point the President reminded me about his wife and how she goes out working for military families that have lost loved ones, and service men and women who have lost their limbs. He mentioned what American young men and women are going through in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center‘. With teary eyes, he concluded “it’s not about the money but about putting American blood on the line.” He stated how many American service people have no limbs because they fight to defend freedom all over the world. He concluded by saying leaders of all counties need to step up and fight evil in their own countries. Q. Is there anything else you would like to share regarding your meeting with President Obama? Egbase: Yes. When I hugged the President I was asked him to please visit Nigeria before he leaves office. His response was “we are trying.” *Source Huffington Post]]>